Academic Aspirations

My last blog entry focused on the genesis of our new five-year vision. My next four will highlight each of the major initiatives that will set VMS on a continued positive trajectory for the future. This post addresses the essential elements embedded in the review of our academic programs.

Robert Sternberg, a Tufts University professor, wisely indicated that the 20th century’s “3 R’s” of Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmatic should be replaced in this century by Respect, Reasoning and Resilience. Tony Wagner of Harvard University suggested that Rigor, Relevance and Respect better addressed the expectations of this century. To meet the needs of our current learners and achieve the desired student outcomes, VMS will continue to enrich its academic programs by strengthening curriculum and pedagogy in all disciplines. While attending to all of the aforementioned “R’s,” we will embed the five “C’s” as well: Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Character, and Communication.

We are concentrating on a more intentional scheduled review and development of our curriculum. Our plan is to identify two curricular areas per year and to direct resources to determine the best methods of delivering the vital skills and content to our students in these areas. Embedded in this process will be our focused attention on the ever-changing demands of the 21st century.

This curricular review process will also enhance our critical support systems necessary to ensure multiple measures of mastery and to provide an emphasis on deep understanding rather than shallow knowledge. We will improve existing programs and also add new ones as needed that will further enable innovative learning methods that integrate the use of supportive technologies, inquiry and problem based approaches, and higher order thinking skills.

All of these initiatives will be supported with significant, targeted professional development for faculty and staff utilizing outside and internal expertise. This will assist in cultivating our teachers’ ability to identify students’ particular learning styles, intelligences, and strengths.

In my last blog I referred to the five-year vision as my job description, which is just one of many roles it plays. It’s also an intensive examination of who we are and where we are going. This intentional process of organizational introspection is designed to ensure that we meet our overall aspirational goal of both being a top tier independent school in the U.S., and also being recognized as such by a global audience.

About Vail Mountain School

Founded in 1962, Vail Mountain School is a K-12, coed, independent school in Vail, Colorado. Our philosophy is to provide a demanding, college preparatory, liberal arts education in an atmosphere of mutual respect between faculty and students, where nurturing a healthy self-concept and stimulating academic inquiry are parallel objectives. Intentionally designed cross-age programs promote role modeling, responsibility, self confidence, and a sense of community. Our location in the Rocky Mountains allows us to integrate the outdoors into the academic and cultural fabric of the school through hut trips, all-school Ski Fridays, and other experiential learning opportunities. The result: our graduates possess a quiet confidence that serves them well in college and in life—confidence to assert themselves in their first college level essays; to raise their hand in a class of hundreds; to live on their own for the first time, to meet with and engage their professors; and to lead among their peers.